Featuring a line up that included Dawn of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead, RoboCop, A Clockwork Orange, Super, Wall-E and Serenity, the 3rd annual Los Angeles Times Hero Complex Film Festival was held this past weekend. Each film was accompanied by one or two prominent guests who all gave fascinating behind the scenes facts about their films as well as info on some upcoming projects.

It was a great weekend to be a fan of movies in Los Angeles and, after the jump, you can read dozens and dozens of behind the scenes facts from all those movies as well as Zack Snyder‘s update on Man of Steel, Simon Pegg talking The World’s End and Star Trek 2, Peter Weller‘s feelings on a RoboCop remake, Malcom McDowell‘s thoughts on The Avengers, James Gunn‘s thoughs on the similarites between Super, Kick Ass and God Bless America, Andrew Stanton‘s statement on possible Pixar sequels and Nathan Fillion‘s casting choices for Uncharted

 Dawn of the Dead – Q&A Featuring Director Zack Snyder and Walking Dead Creator Robert Kirkman

  • A few years back, Zack Snyder and Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. pitched a big budget zombie that asked “how far can we push this genre?” The studio didn’t want to spend that much money, though, so it’s been put on hold though Snyder thinks it’ll get made eventually.
  • Man of Steel is going well, Snyder is editing, and called it “gigantic and crazy.”

Shaun of the Dead – Q&A Featuring Writer/Director Edgar Wright and Writer/Star Simon Pegg

  • When Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg were writing Shaun of the Dead, they thought they were the only zombie movie on the horizon. Then they got disappointed when they heard about Danny Boyle’s as well as Zack Snyder’s.
  • Wright feels true death of the zombies in the eighties, eventually resurrected in the late 90s by the Resident Evil games, was the dancing zombies in the Thriller video but especially the dancing Michael Jackson zombie in Return of the Living Dead Part 2.
  • After Shaun’s mom dies in the film, the script had a bunch of jokes written in that were even shot, but they felt the film needed some pause.
  • After Liz dumps Shaun, he and Ed are in the Winchester and Ed gives Shaun his plan for the next day which sounds like it’s all just more drinking. In fact, Ed’s monologue is a map for the rest of the movie. For example, “bloody Mary’s in the morning” refers to the girl in the garden, named Mary, the King is Phillip, the couple are Diane and David, and shots at the Winchester refers to the gun.
  • They’ve just finished another draft of The World’s End, which was a blast to write and easier because they’re more mature. Pegg can’t wait to make the film.
  • He describes it as “a struggle of the individual against the collective,” which is a theme in the whole Cornetto Trilogy, and says World’s End is “a bit darker, but also sillier.”
  • When asked about Star Trek 2, Pegg says because we don’t have to reintroduce the character, it hits the ground running and doesn’t stop.

RoboCop – Q&A Featuring Star Peter Weller

  • At the time of release, RoboCop held the record for most times rejected for an R rating by the MPAA.
  • Peter Weller calls the movie “anthropological” and believes in 100 years people will still be able to watch it and get something out it.
  • Late in the film, when RoboCop finally takes off his mask, Weller purposely softened his voice but never told director Paul Verhoeven what he was going to do.
  • The face make up for those scenes took 6.5 hours and it took 1.5 hours to put on the suit. Eight hours on set before filming could even begin. Then two hours to take it off.
  • At this point, Weller began to get into genius, PhD professor mode. He tells the audience Blade Runner isn’t about Harrison Ford, it’s about slavery. “Did you miss that?” Phillip K. Dick was writing about civil rights long before the Civil Rights movement.
  • On the topic of a RoboCop remake, Weller says “I could give a shit.” Wishes everyone luck but thinks “it’s hard to replicate the morality that endemic” to the film.
  • He talks about how in some of his classes, well over 90% of his fellow classmates (or students for that matter) haven’t seen any works by Paul Newman, movies as iconic as Jaws, anything Brando pre-Godfather. He uses this as an example of our celebrity driven, uncultured society.
  • He hates, hates, hates a process trailer, a rig that allows actors to “drive” a car while acting. But really they’re just getting pulled. Weller would get rid of them all if he could and points to Denzel Washington’s long monologues not looking at the road in Training Day as a particularly egregious example.

Note: Peter Weller spoke for well over and hour and was captivating. It might seem eccentric, but he was making brilliant points, engaging with the audience, it was pretty spectacular. He’s a genius.

A Clockwork Orange – Q&A Featuring Star Malcolm McDowell

  • Malcom McDowell on The Avengers – “It’s noisy, isn’t it?” He thought the movie was fun but really dumb.
  • He never thought about Stanley Kubrick being a genius while on set because it would have been too intimidating.
  • After the film, he spent some time with Peter Sellers, who was a manic depressive, but says seeing him going into Clouseau mode at a Hollywood dinner for 25 minutes looking for a girl’s earring is one of the best things he’s ever seen.
  • He feels he did Trekkies a favor by killing Captain Kirk in Star Trek Generations because it opened the door for J.J. Abrams. He suggests watching Patrick Stewart deliver long monologues is boring.
  • At a post Clockwork Hollywood party, he met Gene Kelly who proceeded to blow him off because of the use of Singin In the Rain in the film. Years after his passing, Kelly’s widow told McDowell he wasn’t mad at him, he was mad at Kubrick because Kelly never got paid.
  • After spending some time with original author Anthony Burgess, McDowell realized he was obsessed with his own bowel movements.
  • Kubrick loved dogs and his house was always full of dog shit. He gave a golden retriever to McDowell, who McDowell named Alex. Kubrick asked why he didn’t name is Stanley?
  • Apparently, Kubrick is one of only a few of non-royal people in England to be buried on his own land.
  • Two of the most famous scenes from the end of the movie, Alex’s free association with the psychologist and his being fed, both ended up the way they were because of McDowell being bored with what was scripted and wanting to make Kubrick laugh. The association in the film was totally improvised. The popping open his mouth to be fed made Kubrick laugh so hard, he had to go off set.

Super – Q&A with Writer/Director James Gunn and Star Rainn Wilson

  • James Gunn finished the script for Super well before he directed Slither but couldn’t figure out someone to play the complicated role of a man who had to be physically imposing, kind of a loser, yet sympathetic. He thought John C. Reilly was the only person but at the time, he wasn’t a big enough star so the film was put on hold.
  • Gunn’s ex-wife, Office-star Jenna Fischer, came up with the idea of her co-star Rainn Wilson and Wilson loved the script.
  • Wilson feels the film didn’t connect with audiences because it’s completely indefinable. It’s too many things at the same time.
  • For the role of Boltie, they were looking for an Ellen Page-type and Gunn said almost every single actress in their early 20s wanted the role. That, along with the fact that Wilson worked with Page on Juno, led them to approaching her and she said “Yes.”
  • One of the most important decisions in crafting the character for Wilson was his hair. He couldn’t be Dwight. Twice during the shoot, Gunn caught him slipping a bit into that pocket and corrected him.
  • Gunn and Mark Millar are friends and they came up with their non-superhero film ideas, Kick Ass and Super, at the same time. No one ripped off anyone else.
  • Gunn is aware of the similarities between his film and Bobcat Gothwait’s God Bless America but doesn’t think it’s in anyway a rip off.

WALL-E – Q&A With Writer/Director Andrew Stanton

  • Andrew Stanton apologized that most of the stories he was going to talk about had been out for years, such as the fact he wrote the first part of the movie using the structure of the first Alien movie.
  • Almost two years of production were wasted on a plot that had big blobs landing on Earth after Eve left. The reveal would have been that’s what humans have become: masses of Jell-O. It was ultimately deemed too silly and scrapped.
  • Production on Wall-E began right after the iPod was invented and ended when the iPhone was released, kind of foreseeing the human tendency to want the latest toy that’s in the movie.
  • During an early screening of Wall-E, Bob Iger, former CEO of Disney, was talking to Steve Jobs and Jobs commented about people’s attraction to technology in the movie. Iger retorted, “Whose fault is that?” To which Jobs shrugged and laughed.
  • Part of Pixar’s commitment to excellence, in Stanton’s mind, is that no one there ever plans on leaving so they’re invested in every story. The regular development time of one Pixar film is longer than the shelf life of a studio head.
  • The Blu-ray has a geek commentary track that features three super nerdy Pixar people dissecting the science and references in the film.
  • Pixar artists once took a life-size Mo to Sears and did a full photo shoot of baby pictures. He might put it online in the near future at herocomplex.com
  • It took about 10 months to get Fox to let Pixar use Hello Dolly.
  • “I’m sure you’ll see other sequels to things” – Stanton on upcoming Pixar projects.
  • He’s do a Finding Nemo sequel if he comes up with the right idea, and he’s always thinking.
  • The success of Finding Nemo gave Pixar carte blanche to make a series of really out there movies like Wall-E, Up and Ratatouille.
  • Stanton hates when animation is pigeonholed as a kids genre. “We’re not making it for your kids, we’re making it for everyone.”
  • Wall-E losing his mind at the end was Brad Bird‘s idea.

Serenity – Q&A with Actor Nathan Fillion

  • Nathan Fillion almost dropped out of Joss Whedon‘s Much Ado About Nothing because he couldn’t memorize the lines but Joss talked him into it.
  • He knows people would like him to play Ant-Man but was never that big a fan of the character. If he could be one superhero, he’d be Cannonball of the New Mutants.
  • “If I were making [Uncharted] I wouldn’t want me in it. Would I want to be in it? Yeah.” – Fillion admitting he’s not a big enough box office draw to top line the Uncharted franchise.
  • Steven Spielberg helped the actor cry in Saving Private Ryan and, years later, ran across each other on a Hollywood lot. Spielberg asked him, “Do you remember me?”

Many thanks to the wonderful people at the Los Angeles Times Hero Complex for making this event possible. I urge you all to try and make it out next  year. Three years running, it’s been a fantastic weekend.

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